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More Leaves from the Journal
Visit to Glenfiddich 24 Sept 1867


Tuesday, September 24, 1867

A bright morning, but a fearful gale blowing. The maids, Emilie and Annie and Lady Churchill’s maid, with Ross and the luggage, started at a little past seven.

Breakfasted at a quarter past nine; and at ten, taking leave of Lenchen, darling Beatrice, and the boys, and Christian, started with Louise and Jane Churchill—Brown, as usual, on the box. Sir Thomas Biddulph had gone on it eight. We drove up by Alt Craichie on to Gairnskiel, and anything like the wind I cannot describe. It blew through everything. Just beyond Gairnshiel we took another change of my own horses, which took us up that very steep hill called Glascholl. Here we met the luggage with Blake, [A footman, now one of the Pages of the Presence] which had stuck completely, but was going in with the help of four cart or farm horses, and then we went on by Tomahoish and Cock Brigg; where we crossed the Don. At the small inn at the foot of the hill, called Bridge End, we found the maids’ carriage halting. They were waiting for the luggage, but we sent them on. Our postilions next took a wrong road, and we had to get out to enable them to turn. Then came a very steep hill, the beginning of very wild and really grand scenery. Louise and Jane Churchill walked up to the top of this hill, and then we went down another very steep one, seeing a fearfully long ascent before us. We changed horses, and took a pair of post-horses here. Steep green hills with a deep ravine on our left as we went up, and then down again, this fearful hill—surely three miles in length—called Lecht. At the bottom we entered a glen, or rather pass, very wild, and the road extremely bad, with rapid turnings. Near this there are iron mines belonging to the Duke of Richmond. Here we met a drove of very fine Highland cattle grazing. Turning out of this glen we came into much more cultivated land with farms and trees, skirted by hills in the distance—all very clear, as the views had been all along. By half-past one we came close by Tomintull which lies very prettily amongst the trees, hills, and fields; then leaving it to our left, we went on about a mile and a half beyond the town; and here by the roadside, on some grass below a heathery bank, at about a quarter-past two, we took our luncheon, and walked a little. The Duke of Richmond’s keeper, Lindsay by name, joined us here and rode before us. We changed horses (again a pair) and drove on, entering Glen Livet through the small village of Knockandhu—Blairfindy Castle on the left, just behind the celebrated Glenlivet Distillery. We drove on six miles; pretty country all along, distant high hills and richly cultivated land, with houses and cottages dotted about. At Tomnaroulin, a farm, not far from a bridge, we met Sir Thomas Biddulph (who had driven on in a dogcart) and our ponies. Though the wind had gone down a good deal, there was quite enough to make it disagreeable and fatiguing, and so we decided to drive, and Sir Thomas said he would ride across with the ponies and meet the Duke, while his head keeper was to come on the box with Brown and show us the way (Grant did not go with us this time). We drove on for an hour and more, having entered Glen Rinnes shortly after Tomnavoulin, with the hills of Ben Rinnes on the left. There were fine large fields of turnips, pretty hills and dales, with wood, and distant high hills, but nothing grand. The day became duller, and the mist hung over the hills; and just as we sat down by the roadside on a heathery bank, where there is a very pretty view of Glenlivet, to take our tea, it began to rain, and continued doing so for the remainder of the evening. Lindsay, the head keeper, fetched a kettle of boiling water from a neighbouring farmhouse. About two miles beyond this we came through Dufftown—a small place with a long steep street, very like. Grantown—and then turned abruptly to the right past Atechindoun, leaving a pretty glen to the left. Three miles more brought us to a lodge and gate, which was the entrance of Glenftddich. Here you go quite into the hills. The glen is very narrow, with the Fiddich flowing below, green hills rising on either side with birch trees grooving on them, much like atInchrory, only narrower. We saw deer on the tops of the hills close by. The carriage-road —a very good one—winds along for nearly three miles, when you come suddenly upon the lodge, the position of which reminds me very much of Corn Davon only that the glen is narrower and the hills just round it steeper. It is along shooting lodge, covering a good deal of ground, but only one story high. We reached it at half-past six, and it was nearly dark. Sir Thomas received us, but he had missed the Duke! A message had, however, at once been sent after him. On entering the house there is one long, low passage, at the end of which, with three windows, taking in the whole of each side and looking three different ways, is the drawing-room, where tea was prepared. We went along the passage to our rooms, which were all in a row. Another long passage, a little beyond the hall door, went the other way at right angles with the first, and along that were offices and servants’ bedrooms. Next to the drawing-room came the dining-room, then Sir Thomas Biddulph’s room, then the Duke’s, then Brown’s and Ross's (in one), then Louise’s, then mine, then Emilie’s and Annie’s (in one), then, a little further back, Jane Churchill’s and her maid’s—all very comfortably and conveniently together. But though our maids had arrived, not a bit of luggage. We waited and waited till dinnertime, but nothing came. So we ladies (for Sir Thomas had wisely brought some things with him) had to go to dinner in our riding-skirts, and just as we were. I, having no cap, had to put on a black lace veil of Emilie’s, which she arranged as a coiffure. I had been writing and resting before dinner. The Duke (who remained at Glenfiddicli) and Sir Thomas dined with us ladies.

None of the maids or servants had any change of clothing. Dinner over, I went with Louise and Jane to the drawing-room, which was given me as my sitting-room, and Jane read. While at dinner at half-past nine, Ross told us that Blake, the footman, had arrived with some of the smaller things, but none of the most necessary—no clothes, etc. The break with the luggage had finally broken down at Tomintoul; from thence Blake had gone with a cart to Dufftown, where he had got a small break, and brought the light things on, but the heavier luggage was coming in a cart, and they hoped would be here by twelve o’clock. At first it seemed as if no horses were to be had, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that some were at last obtained. Louise and Jane Churchill left me at near eleven o’clock.

I sat up writing and waiting for this luggage. A man was sent out on a pony with a lantern in search of it, and I remained writing till a quarter past twelve, when, feeling very tired, I lay down on the sofa, and Brown (who was indefatigable) went out himself to look for it. At one, he came back, saying nothing was to be seen or heard of this luckless luggage, and urged my going to bed. My maids had unfortunately not thought of bringing anything with them, and I disliked the idea of going to bed without any of the necessary toilette. However, some arrangements were made which were very uncomfortable; and after two I got into bed, but had very little sleep at first; finally fatigue got the better of discomfort, and after three I fell asleep.

Wednesday, September 25

Slept soundly till half-past seven, and heard that the luggage had only arrived at half-past four in the morning, Breakfasted with Louise, who made my coffee beautifully with Brown, who waited at breakfast, Ross coming in and out with what had to be carried. It rained soon after I got up, and continued raining till near eleven. I read and wrote, etc. At half-past eleven, it having cleared, I rode up the small narrow glen, down which flows a burnie (called the Garden Burn), the banks covered with fern and juniper, heather and birch, etc, past the kitchen-garden. Louise walked with me. Went up nearly to the top and walked down it again, then on to the stables, which are at a small distance from the house, where I saw an old underkeeper, P. Stewart by name, seventy-four years old, with a Peninsular and Waterloo medal, who had been in the 92nd Highlanders, and was a great favourite of the late Duke’s. Home by twenty minutes to one. The day became very fine and warm. Lunched in my own room with Louise at the same small table at which we had breakfasted, Ross and the Duke’s piper playing outside the window.

After luncheon rode (on Sultan, as this morning) with Louise and Jane Churchill, the Duke walking (and Jane also part of the way), down to the end of Glenfiddiclr, turning then to the left for Bridgehaugh (a ford), and going on round the hill of Ben Main. We first went along the road and then on the heather “squinting” the hill—hard and good ground, but disagreeable from the heather being so deep that you did not see where you were going—the Duke’s forester leading the way, and so fast that Brown led me on at his full speed, and we distanced the others entirely. At five we got to the edge of a small ravine, from whence we had a fine view of the old ruined castle of Achendown, which formerly belonged to the old Lords Huntly. Here we took our tea, and then rode home by another and a shorter way—not a bad road, but on the steeper side of the hill, and quite on the slant, which is not agreeable. We came down at the ford, and rode bark as we went out, getting home at seven. A very fine evening. It was very nearly dark when we reached home. I was very tired; I am no longer equal to much fatigue.

Thursday, September 26

Slept very well and was much rested. At half-past twelve I started with Louise on ponies (I on Sultan), and Jane Churchill, the Duke of Richmond, and Sir Thomas walking, rode past the stables on a good road, and then turned to the right and went up Glenfiddich for about four miles. The scenery is not grand, but pretty; an open valley with green and not very high hills, some birches, and a great deal of fern and juniper. After about three miles the glen narrows and is extremely pretty; a narrow steep path overhanging a burn leads to a cave, which the Duke said went a long way under the hill. It is called the Elf House. There is a small space of level ground, and a sort of seat arranged with stones, on which Louise and I sat; and here we all lunched, and then tried to sketch. But I could make nothing of the cave, and therefore scrambled up part of the hill with great trouble, and tried again but equally unsuccessfully, and had to be helped down, as I had been helped up, by Brown. We were here nearly an hour, arid then, after walking down the steep path, we got on our ponies and rode up to the left, another very steep and narrow path, for a short while on the brink of a steep high bank with the Fiddith below. We emerged from this ravine and came upon moors in the hills (the whole of this is "the forest''), and rode on a mile and a half till near the head of the Livet on the right of the Soutfie, a high, bare, heathery mossy hill; Cairn-ta-Brtiar to the left. Here we had a fine view of Ben Aren and Ben-na-Bovard, and this was the very way we should have ridden from Tomnavoulin. We had a slight sprinkling of rain, but very little at this time. We saw eight stags together at a distance. Oh! had dearest Albert been here with his rifle! We rode on and back till we came to a sheltered place near the burnside, about one mile and three-quarters from Glenfiddlch Lodge, where one of the Duke’s keepers had prepared a fire and got a kettle boiling, and here we took our tea. Afterwards I sketched, but we were surrounded by a perfect cloud of midges which bit me dreadfully. The gentlemen left us, after tea. and walked home. I walked a little while, and then rode back by a quarter to seven. A beautiful mild evening, the sky a lovely colour. Dear good Sharp [A favourite collie of mine.] was with us and out each day, and so affectionate.

A. Thomson, S. Forbes, Kennedy, and J. Stewart, the latter with the ponies, as well as the Duke’s forester Lindsay, were out with us. Dinner as yesterday. Jane Churchill finished reading “Pride and Prejudice” to us after dinner. A very clear starlight night.

Friday, September 27

A fair but dull morning. These quiet breakfasts with dear Louise, who was most amiable, attentive, and cheerful, were very comfortable, just as they had been in 1865 with good Lochen, and in 1866 with Louise at Dimielm. Sketched hastily the stables from one window, and the approach from the other. The house in itself is really a good one, the rooms so well-sized and so conveniently placed, all close to each other. The cuisine, though very simple, was excellent, and the meat, etc. the very best— only a female cook. The Duke was very kind.

At a quarter-past ten we left, taking leave of the Duke at the door. Sir Thomas sat with Brown on the box. The day was raw. We drove precisely the same way as we came. In Dufftown the people had turned out, the bell was rung and the band played, but they seemed hardly sure till we had passed who it was. We drove through at a great rate. The day being fair, we could see the country better. At one we got to the same place where we had lunched on Tuesday, and here changed horses, and Sir Thomas left us and got into his dogcart and drove after us. The sun had come out, and the day was fine and warm. As we passed Tomnavovlin, and in various other places, people were out. We drove on for about two or. three miles, and then stopped at twenty minutes to two, just before we turned into the glen of the Lecht Hills; and here just below the road, under a bank on the grass, we sat down and took our luncheon, and sketched. Sir Thomas drove on, and we saw him again near the top of the hills, while we began the first very steep ascent, which seemed almost beyond the horses’ power; but though only a pair, they got us up admirably. Brown walked by the carriage all the time, being very anxious about the road. Then down ever so long, having a splendid view of the hills—the road being dreadfully rough and bad besides— then up again, and when it came to that very steep winding hill going down to Bridge End., we got out and walked to the bottom and across the ford at Tornahoishovei a footbridge. The view here was splendid, all the hills rising around, with the old Castle of Corgarff, and the river Don with the valley of the Don-side in the foreground.

Here we found our horses and drove on. It was raining at this time (about four), and it rained several times during the evening. We drove on, and after we passed Tornahoish two or three miles, and had got up the long hill, we found a sort of hole in the bank (such as are often met with where gravel and stones have been taken out), where we took our tea. The kettle took some time boiling, as we had only cold water from the burn. When we go out only for the afternoon we take two bottles filled with hot water, which saves much time. Poor Louise had been suffering from toothache all the time. We got safely home at ten minutes past seven o’clock.


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